Born Free Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elsa’s Kopje Lodge to the rescue!
They say a picture tells a thousand words, so here is a short video of a dramatic and amazing incident that happened during my recent trip to Meru National Park in Northern Kenya.
Lodge Manager, George, had witnessed an elephant with a grapefruit-size injury which was weeping pus on the left-hand side of his belly, near the hind-leg. George asked whether we could help and, of course, I said yes – but how to find one elephant in over 800 sq kms?
The following morning at 6 am we set off, criss-crossing the Park to try and look for the injured animal. By 11.30 am, we had come up with nothing. However, just as we got back to the Lodge to take a short break, George pointed to a solitary young male elephant visible through binoculars from the Lodge itself. We rushed down to see whether he was our candidate. He was, so together with Tim Oloo, Born Free’s Country Manager, we sat in our vehicle observing him while the KWS vet, Dr Rono, supported by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, was alerted and drove to the scene along with members of the Born Free Kenya team. It was not easy. After several hours, the elephant started to move off and ended up in a very rocky and inaccessible area where vehicles could not go.
Thinking that he may be following a watercourse, we drove around to the next track and within half an hour, lo and behold, ‘our elephant’ crossed the track and headed up to a flat and open area to the left. Victor, our Born Free Project Manager, and Dr Rono followed, leaving us to wait for a radio signal to join them when it was appropriate. The minutes seemed to drag. There was no news. Suddenly the radio sprang into life and Victor urgently called us in to help make sure that other elephants in the area did not come to the aid of their now prostrate companion. We were with him in just ten minutes.
It turned out that the grapefruit-sized lump on his side was only the tip of a putrid iceberg. Inside the body cavity, the wound was seemingly five or six times as large and with literally litres of putrid material and pus. Dr Rono expertly flushed the system out making a small incision about six inches below the main wound so that it could drain properly. Then the heavily-sedated elephant was given antibiotics and other medication before he administered the reversal injection.
We all retreated to the relative safety of our vehicles to see what would happen next. Within 60 seconds the elephant was up, seemingly bemused and really cross! He charged away up the hill before turning to the nearest innocent bush and giving it a thorough beating. Then, with a further series of outraged trumpets, he disappeared into the distance, just as light was fading.
The film is here. It is a story of compassion and, I hope, success. I have asked the Born Free team on the ground to report back to confirm that the elephant is well and is making a good recovery. Dr Rono suggested that he would take a further look and gave the elephant a 70% chance of survival. I hope he is right. But one thing is for sure, if KWS, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Elsa’s Kopje Lodge and Born Free Kenya had not stepped in, he would almost certainly be dead.